Edit Blog Post
Published: October 19th 2019
September 27, 2019
I’m on my way to Pakistan. I am flying from London Heathrow to Istanbul, Turkey, and then to Islamabad Pakistan.
The purpose of this trip is 2 fold:
To do a 2 week motorcycle trip through a PakistanAnd to play polo in the 104th FIP (Federation of International Polo) Ambassadors Cup in Lahore, Pakistan
Our fearless leader on the motorcycle trip is Moin Khan. I was introduced to him by Aga Ali Murtaza from the Lahore Polo Club. I was invited to play Polo at the end of October in the 104th Ambassadors cup. And If you read my previous blog you know that I just finished a trip to Ireland. I figured if I was travelling all the way to Pakistan, I should try to fit in a motorcycle trip. It conveniently worked out that Agha’s friend runs a motorcycle adventure come called “A Different
Agenda.” He had a trip planned from September 29-October 12. As I was finishing the Ireland trip, it worked out perfectly.
On my flight to Islamabad, I sat beside an individual named Syed from Islamabad. A strange thing happened. While we were both resting, Syed noticed a Chinese man open the overhead bin above us and take a bag out. He thought this was odd so he got up , checked the bin, and found out that the man had taken his bag! Shortly thereafter, the Chinese man came over and said that he had taken Syed's bag by mistake. Syed went through his bag and discovered that $350 was missing. He reported it to the attendant. He question the man and searched his seating area but didn’t come up with anything. It was about an hour later when I woke up that Syed told me this story. We started chatting about our backgrounds, etc. Syed Is a businessman from Islamabad. He was a CFO for a large Design-build Pakistan company the specialized in building shopping malls. At any rate, we got along really well. He invited me to his house in Islamabad for dinner and to
meet his family if I had any extra time.
As we left the plane, (at 4am in the morning) he waited to make sure I got through Passport control, took me to the bag carousel and made sure I met my driver to take me to hotel. He gave me his card and said if there was absolutely anything I needed while he was in Pakistan to give him a call.
This experience set the tone for my appreciation of the amazing people of Pakistan.
At the airport, I also met up with Alex, a Kazakhstan/American and we shared a ride to our hotel, the Green Oak Guest House. We arrived at the hotel about 6:30 am. Since we did not have a room, we met one of the other riders, Alex Lim, and he said we could crash in his room until ours were ready.
We had the day to get organized for the trip - getting local currency, locals SIM cards, visit the pharmacy, etc.
The entire group met for dinner at a local Pakistan restaurant and had a fantastic meal - kebabs,
chicken Masada, naan and roti, and Dahl.
Alex Yermolovich - originally from Kazakhstan, moved to California when he was 13
Alex Lam, born in Taipei and moved to California when he was 8
Farad - Originally From Pakistan, now living in the UK
Fahood - Originally from Pakistan, now living in UK
Fahd Bangash - A Pakistani who got married and moved to California, in the process of moving back to Pakistan
Jimmy Kahn - a famous Pakistan Musician
Moey Kahn - Moin’s brother
Shaban “Baba” Hussein - A Pakistan, unemployed Musician
Day 1 riding September 30
Moin wanted to miss the traffic getting out of Islamabad, so he decided we should be on the road by 6:00 am. We were being picked up at 5 am, and taken to his grandparents house for a Pakistan breakfast to pick up our bikes.
We are all riding Honda CB 150’s. These bikes are smaller than what I am used to, but appropriate for the road conditions. When we left the house there were thunder storms and
heavy rain. Not a great way to start. However, it eased off as we were heading out of town. It’s not actually to bad riding in the rain, since we take gear for all weather conditions.
About 2 hours later it stopped raining, we entered another sprawling city, Abbottabad, with lots of traffic. Riding in heavy local traffic is not new to me. It is something I experienced in my rides in other Asian countries, specifically, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It always seems chaotic, but there is a system that actually works reasonably well. The key is to not show a sign of weakness!
The first crash of the trip was Alix Lam (Dear Alex). He is a very good rider, However, he went in to a small flooded area and wiped out. He was OK. After a few minutes he was on his bike and back at it.
The next Crash was Fahd from the UK. Not sure what happened , but he wiped out on a main concrete road, and had a few minor scrapes and injuries.
The next one was Dear
Alex again swerving to avoid someone and sliding out.
Next was Alex Ker . He was right in front of me when a young boy ran across the road . Alex hit the brakes on the wet road and slid down the pavement.
Coming out of this crowded city traffic, we hit the open roads. Lots of good turns and very little traffic. Baba, one of the Pakistan riders, was coming down a hill into a turn a little to fast and slid off the road into a rock pile.
Fortunately no one was seriously injured.
The rest of the day was excellent riding with no other incidents. It was one of the best rides I have ever done. A mix a gravel, water, pavement, beautiful scenery. It was a good reminder of why I do these trips. Enjoying the fresh air, the adrenaline rush, the spectacular scenery. Unbelievable!
We arrived in the town of Naran, and stayed at the Rose valley Hotel. It was relatively new, but had not beeen maintained.
The first day, it felt like we experienced everything, -
thunder, heavy rain, warm weather, sun, rain again, busy traffic, good paved roads, really bad paved roads with potholes.
Finally stopped in a town call Navan at 2500 meters above sea level. We stayed at the Rose Valley Hotel. It was a classic 3rd world, new, but not maintained hotel. Went in to town to the bazaar for Turkish dinner. Excellent food.
I went back to the room at 8:30 and went straight to bed, woke up at 6 . Finally felt like I caught up with my sleep and jet lag.
Breakfast at 7:30, on the bikes at 8:30
Day 2 - today we are going over the Babusar pass through the mountains at 13,500 feet, and then down into a valley. The challenge with this is that the the weather changes rapidly. It went from very hot to very cold. So we rode in lighter wear for the first part of the trip, and then to our cold weather gear. We were lucky, however, that it was sunny and very little wind. At the actual pass, there were several vendors selling tea, coffee, and snack foods.
Many domestic tourists go there to see the beautiful scenery.
Shortly after leaving I got a flat on my front tire. I was going about 80 kn per hour and had just passed a truck. Fortunately I was on a straightaway and pulled over safely. Within a few minutes our support team came along and gave me a new bike to ride while they fixed my bike. So I proceeded on my own. Along the way, I came across a car and several of our riders along the side of the road. It turned out that Our guides brother, Moey, had hit a pothole and crashed. It was quit a serous accident and there took him to the hospital to get checked out, they diagnosed it as a sincere concussion. So he had to take it easy for a few days. ‘’
I proceeded and went through a police security check. I rested there for 10 minutes then proceed down the mountain. Fortunately I was taking it easy, when my rear tire blew. I was on a downhill bend and I had no choice than to pull over and wait for help. After about
10 minutes, Fard came along and kept me company for about 45 minutes until the support vehicle arrived. Again they swapped out bikes, and I was off again, Finally I caught up with the rest of the group only to find out that Brit 1 had wiped out again but was just shaken up .
We had a coffee, then mounted our bikes for the last stretch in to Gilgit. It was dark when we arrived, and very difficult to driver as cars and bikes weave all over the road, it was very busy, many vehicles did not have headlights, while others rode with their high beams on.
We checked in to the PDTC hotel, had an early dinner and straight to bed. I had a full nights sleep and woke up well rested.
Day 3 - we had a short day of riding to Nunza, so we slept in, had a late breaking and went to the bazaar in town. We left about 2 pm and rode on the KKh, an immaculate new paved mountain road. Lots of turns up and down the mountainside. It was definitely the best day
of riding getting to our hotel, the “Mountain Story”
After checking in to this beautiful mountain side facility. I noticed a BMW and Harley motorcycles. which are very unusual in this part of the world. I saw 3 guys sitting in the yard, so I went over and talked to them. We discussed our motorcycle adventures, then it came out the I was also in pakistan to play polo later in the month. Well, guest what, It turned out that 2 of these Pakistan men were polo players! It turns out that we knew several people in comon. One of these individuals was part owner of the hotel.
The next mooring I ran into TErik and Sarig and we made arrangements to go for a hike in the afternoon. We are spending 2 days in Hunza, so this was technically a rest day.
A small group of us rode to a local 800 year old castle for a tour. We then went to a furniture factory run solely by Women.They were initially frowned up by the men in the community since this’s was considered Mens work.They proved them wrong and went
on to build a successful businesss, at times employing up to 40 women!
Across the road was a school, we wandered over and a few of the guys played cricket in the playground with the locals. While they were doing that I went in to the school and met the head teacher, she toured me through the school, unfortunately there were no kids in class but it was still interesting. I went in to one of the rooms and there was a group of teachers sitting on the floor and having a planning meeting. I told them I was from Canada. One of them said “I was in Canada last night.....in my dream”. She offered me a cup of tea, but I declined because I had to met up with the rest of the group.
We went back to the hotel, and I changed to meet up with my new motorcycle/polo ffiends., We went for a 2 hour walk up the mountain and looped back to where we started. It was a very beautiful day. We talked about all sorts of things - motorcycles .polo, religion, India and Pakistan, Trump, and life In general.
I was in my glory. I couldn’t stopped smiling, It felt like I was born to be there.
Our objective today is to drive to the Chinese border at the end of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). THe KKH is a road from the Chinese-Pakistan border to Islamabad. For the most part it is in very good condition. There are many places where three have been avalanches or rockfalls resulting in rocks scattered on the road. So it makes it a little tricky on the motorcycles. Also it is very cold at the top. Some of the riders didn’t bring cold weather gear, so we stopped in a small town that had a shop selling adventure gear. I think the shopkeeper was happy to see us as many of the guys bought jacket, rain pants, gloves and scarfs.
At the border, there really isn’t much there, except of border control. We were concerned yesterday that it might rain today, which would make it very difficult and dangerous, but we lucked out. The temperature at the top was just at freezing. In fact it
Left to right:
Alex Y., Alex L, Fazad, Fahad, Fahd, Baba,,Moin, Jimmy Moey
actually snowed for a few minutes when we arrived.
After taking photos, we headed back down. The ride down was quite relaxing with the road winding though the valley along the riverside. A Yak crossed the road in from of me, so I stopped for a photo opp. He walked towards me, probably 10-15 ft away. I was a little concerned that he might charge me, but he just stopped and posed for a picture.
We timed theday poorly, as we had to drive the last 30 minutes in the dark which is very difficult. One of the BRITS 2 misjudged a turn and wiped out on the pavement. Fortunately he was wearing proper riding gear and was not injured.
Today is a rest day in Passu. We stayed in the Silk Road hotel. The absolute best thing about it, was that it had electric blankets. We were at about 8500 ft aabove sea level and it gets down to about 48 degrees Fahrenheit at night. We arrived at dark last night so had no real idea where we were. Waking up and stepping outside we
were surrounded by mountains.
After a late breakfast, we went for an hour walk to an incredible suspension bridge about 300 yards long across a fast flowing river. The boards were about 18”apart. They do not allow visitors to crosss, only locals that live in a small village on the other side.
Following that we went to a spring fed lake higher up the mountain, close to a receding glacier. Then onwards to the Glacier Springs cafe. We spent about an hour and a half situating in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. An amazing view of the cathedral pegs, snow covered mountains, and a glacier. We met an interesting couple from Columbia who both quit their jobs a took a year off to travel around the word. Her name was Rokha, originally from Karachi pakistan, but now living in Bogotá Columbia.
After dinner , we had a bonfire. It reminded me of being up at the lake house, without the mosquitoes and the marshmallows.
As we were getting ready to leave, a Pakistan gentleman that I had met at
the bonfire, and knew I was going to Lahore, approached me and invited me to his home in Lahore for dinner. This is so typical of the people in Pakistan. They are so kind, helpful and welcoming! I have his information and hope that I will be able to take him up on his invitation.
We have a relatively short day of riding. It was mostly going downhill as we descended about 900 meters. The roads were superb, there were lots of turns, and everyone was feeling good. We stopped in Hunza for lunch at the Cafe de Hunza. We were here a few days ago on our way up the mountain,and it was feeling like we were back home.
While in Hunza , I did a little shopping. I was looking for something polo or equestrian related, since this area is known for traditional polo before the British made it an official sport. I found an old saddle in a shop that the storekeeper claimed was 800 years old . I don’t really believe it , But it was definetly very old. So I offered him $50 dollars and we had a deal.
Just what I needied.....another saddle.
In and other shop I bought a few gifts, and got into a great conversation with Adnan the owner, and he was telling me about traditional polo. He was a great polo fan and attende many games, mostly in the town of Gilgit, which happened to be our next stop. He suggested I stop by to see his cousin who also knew about polo in the area. So as soon as we arrived at our hotel, the PTDC (Pakistan Tourist Developmet Hotel. Myself and Fahad roared in to town and went to Adnans cousin’s place.
He gave us directions to the old polo club, and the new one. We went to the knew one first. It was probably 75 years old! I have never seen anything like it! It was like arena polo back home, except that the field was 800 feet by 110 ft. ( a regulation field back home is 900 feet by 480 feet). The Wales around it wer mad out of stone about 6 feet high. I was in awe. I had never seen anything like it. I walked around the entire field.
Traditional polo ha s 6 or 7 players on each team. The only rule is that there are no rules, so you can only imagine how crazy things must get out there! Fahad was also excited about this , so we decided to visit the old club. It wasn’t far away, but we had to go down narrow paths to get ther. We arrived at what looked like a wide dirt stree with housing and building on each side. Ther were kids playing street polo, like we play street hockey in Canada. There mallets were just tree branches shaped somewhat like polo mallets. The kids all gathered around, and demons Ted how the hit the ball. As we we were talking to the kids a car drove up and a man got out. ne of the kids told us that he was one of the most famous polo players in the area.
He came over to talk to us. He explains about traditional polo, and told us that this dirt street we were standing on was still used for practices. H pulled out his phone and started a video, whhick was done by BBC about him.
He asked us to what it, while he went in to the mosque to pray. 10 minutes later he came back and we fished our conversation. Fahad told him that his father was a general and was based in Gilgit. This man knew Fahad’s father! Small world.
What another amazing day! We were halfway through our trip, and I was beginning to think that this was one of the best motorcycle trips I have ever been on!
Crazy day today. We woke up at 6:30am to get an early start. We had a 10 hour ride from Gilgit to Scardu. We drove south for an hour on an excellent road. then cut off to the east to follow a mountain side road. I didn’t realize that this 100 km road was for the most pat under construction. It was an old dirt road the was being converted to a 2 lane paved road. To widen the road, they had to blast out sections of the mountain, jack hammer rocks, use digger high up in the mountain, and so on.
We had to drive through
all of this mess, while the construction was hopppening. We had to stop on at least 10 occasions while they cleared the road. This new highway was being built in to the side of the mountain. So on our left was the side if the mountain, and on the right was a droppoff about a 1000 feet to the river below. I cant tell you how dangerous this was...fallen rock on the road, sand, gravel, heavy duty equipment, passing huge trucks, water, sharp turns...etc.
Fortunately we made it alive. There were 2 major wipeouts, one by Brit1 the other by Jimmy. No one seriously injured. At the end of this construction zone, we entered the town of Skardu. As I mentioned before, it is very difficult to drive at night here.Plus there was lots of traffic. I was riding at a reasonless speed, when a man with his 5 year old sitting in front of him on his motorcycle, coming from the other direction are a right turn right in front of me. I almost no time to react. I herein to stop but had no time and t-boned him. Fortunately neither bike went down, I just
stared at him angrily, bet when I saw the young child I focussed on him to make sure he was ok then stared at the man. I chose not to loose my temper so I just stared at him. He obviously new he had made a very dangerous mistake, After our little stare down I continued . I was quit shaken up, I was tired after 10 hours of riding , and I lost the rest of the group. I was especially pissed off because one of the riders in our group riding behind me saw all of this happen but just carried on and left me behind. I had a few words with him once I got to the hotel. He later apologized. There is a code of ethics in motorcycling that you always help out a fellow rider, and never leave someone on there own.
Rest day in Skardu. Skardu is the starting point for the K2 climb. The second highest mountain in the world, and the most difficult one to climb. My friend Katrina Follows is one of the few women to summit. (In 2017). The plan today was
to visit the polo club. When people knew I was a polo played , I had the opportunity to visit the governors house with Moin, our guide.
While there , we went in to the stalls to visit the horses, one of the horses turned towards me and aggressively charged towards me and bit my baby finger on my right hand.finger. I have Never seen anything like this before. I thought he bit the end of my finger off.
We wrapped my finger in tissue and Rushed to the hospital. On the way Moin called his friend, Asfal, who called ahead to let. Emergency know we were on our way.We immediately saw a doctor in the triage center, who recommended immediately getting in cleaned and wrapped, getting a rabies shot, pain killers, and antibiotics. Since I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in 10. Years, he also suggested get one.
So Asfar let the way around the hospital trying to get immediate attention for the important visitor from Acadia. Essentially I got a tour of the entire hospital. It was quit large and much like you might expect in a third world
country. Finally, a guy who looked like he just got off his motorcycle took me in to a small room. There were 2 or 3 other patients in there, he asked me to sit in a rusty old chair, but he proceeded to clean my cut with alcohol and othe cleansers and bandidged if up.
Next stop was to get my rabies vaccine.there was none readily. Available, so Ascalesse took off to look for some. He came back in about 10 minutes with that last shot in the hospital. We ran around again and find some to administer it. We went into another small room, and I took off my shirt. He was preparing to inject, but I had to ask him to clean the area with alcohol.
From the hospital, we went to the pharmacy to get the pain killers and antibiotics, and then back to the hotel. I felt much better, and felt very good about getting the Rabies vaccine as a precautionary measure.
The last step was to get the tetanus shot. We had to wait to go to a private clinic which was much cleaner, and I
was dealt with immediately. I had to pay on the way out, which was 120 rupeees, or about 80 cents.
After this went back to the governors house, so we could let them know that I was fine. We went in to the governors house to try to meet him, but he was busy.
I’m going to bed early tonight as I am pretty drugged up so I can ride tomorrow
I decided not to ride today. Primarily because of my injury from yesterday. I knew it was going to be a tough ride. I didn’t want to do any further injury to my finger and affect my ability to play polo. So myself and Fazad (who was not feeeling well also) loaded our bikes in the back of the support vehicle and travelled in comfort. In all my years of riding, this is the first time I missed a day.
It turned out to be an absolute gorgeous, sunny day, but also the toughest riding day of the trip. We left Skardu, which is about 7000 feet above sea level, and rode
to 14000 feet. The ride up was on a single track road that was broken asphalt, gravel and stone. Not to difficult but challenging. As we approach the highest level, the ground was snow covered, but the few vehicles that had gone before us, cut a path, and with the sun shining, the snow had mostly melted. This was not good news, since the snow melt, combined with the road dirt made it very slippery. At the highest level the landscape changed from being mountainous to big vast plains surrounded by distant snow capped mountains. This continued for almost 3 hours with most riders falling at least once. Also there were a lot of puddles that riders had to drive through with ice cold water. After a while, pretty well every rider had cold wet feet..
We stopped in a small village for chai tea, and riders had a chance to take their boots and socks off, and if they had any, put on dry socks and shoes for the last hour and a half. The good news was that everyone was refreshed, but. The bad news was the the stop consumed about 40 minutes,
which meant that the last 40 minutes we had to ride in the dark. Everyone made it to the hotel live and well and looking forward to a hot shower. Well, guess what, there was no hot water so we had to wait til morning.’
Early start this morning. In order to get to Naran, our next stop, we have 2 choices. One is to take the Babusar Pass, which is a good road relatively speaking, or take a bypass road which is not very good, and takes twice as long. We are first going to a town called Chilas where we will find out if the Babusar pass is open.
Fortunately, it is open. In Chilas, it is sunny and 75 degrees. So we headed up the mountain. After about 30 minutes it began to get quit chilly, so we stopped to put on our cold weather gear. It’s a good thing we did, because by the time we arrived at the top it was snowing. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop as we needed to get down the other side before there was any snow accumulation.
As we rode down, the snow turned to rain, and eventually sunshine. we made it to Naren and stopped for lunch at the Moon River Cafe. We were all a little cold, so the Chai tea, naan bread and Cicken Biriani went down really well.
We stayed at the Maisonettes Suites, which was probably the nicest hotel so far, However there was no heat (none of the hotels have heat!) and the hot water would be on til the evening.
This is a different kind of motorcycle tour. Most trips I go on are very regimented. We normally leave at the same time every morning. If it is 8:30, everyone meets in the lobby of the hotel at 8:30, we have a briefing for the day, and away we go.
Not “A Different Agenda”. For example, when I went to bed last night it was greed 8 am breakfast, 9 am departure. So that’s what I prepared for. I was in the restaurant at 8, no sign of anyone. Apparently the group had decided ( breakfast, 10 departure. Ok, so as it turned out
breakfast was closer to 10, and we left at 11:30. Everyone agreed that this is what makes this company unique. Moin makes it more like a group of friends traveling and everything just works itself out.
It was a good ride, beautiful scenery, good roads and not a lot of traffic. Not until we got to Abbottabad. If this doesn’t ring a bell. This is where Osama Bin Ladin was living when the American raided his house and killed him.
The city has a sprawling population of about a million people. The traffic is unbelievable. The roads were very busy, trucks busses, cars , motorcycles, cows, sheep travelling in bothe directions, It is really hard to describe, but basically the. Goal is to go as fast as you. Can without killing yourself or someone else.
Once we got closer to town it got worse, it was rush hour traffic. The main rule f the road is to honk before you overtake someone., and btw we are driving on the left side of the road. So we would look for options...riding of sidewalks, between vehicles, in the Lan Rogerf spprosking trsffic, etc.
We only had one crash today, Fahd ent dorm goiinf around a turn too fast
Lunch at Mcdonalds. I hate to say it, but it was not the same McDonald’s as at home. Th bun was dried out and the meat was over cooked. They had so many people working there, people to help with ordering, with seating with napkins, a doorman, and so on. I had been wearing a plastic glove to protect my horse bite injury, and one of the staff noticed it was worn so he brought me 3 new plastic gloves
Tot: 0.17s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 11; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0707s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb